Friday, December 11, 2015


I sit in my favorite chair. The pages of Norton Book of Nature Writing catch between my fingers. Each page is so thin it is like lifting a spider web. In my hands, the pages stick together repeatedly. I remember books from my childhood with similar pages. I would spend hours leafing through our dictionary and the family Bible. I enjoyed the delicate feel of the pages, which made me slow down so that I didn't tear them.

Other books drew me in with their illustrations. I especially loved black and white wood engravings. My family acquired a special edition of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights that contained prints by Fritz Eichenberg. The engravings evoked such tension, emotion, and mystery that I dived right into the story of Jane Eyre and read the book over and over again.

Looking at this illustration again, I could easily put myself in Jane's place as she stands facing those who are judging her.

This year I've hunted for illustrated books. They are hard to find, but I discovered several books with wood engravings, which is a process that is time consuming yet in skilled hands such as Eichenberg can intensive the mood of the story. I treasure these books:

Rainbows are Made by Carl Sandburg with wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg

Two volumes of Thoreau, both with wood engravings by Michael McCurdy:

The Winged Life: The Poetic Voice of Henry David Thoreau, edited by Robert Bly, and Walden, the 150th Edition

Barry Moser, another wood engraver, illustrates another book with images of the poets inside, The Light Within the Light: Portraits of Donald Hall, Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin, and Stanley Kunitz by Jeanne Braham.

I have also looked for artists' sketchbooks and found two small colorful volumes. Both are extraordinarily detailed with careful pictorial observations by the artists.

The last book is one I carried with me through college: Orestes, or the Art of Smiling by Domenico Gnoli. The pen and ink drawings create an imaginary world full of humor and delightful details.  Take a look!

What books have you been reading this year?


  1. Thanks for sharing these wonderful books!

  2. Famous Last Words compiled by Ray Robinson, many children's books, Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie, a number of poetry books, Ina Coolbrith, The Bittersweet Song of California's First Poet Laureate by Aleta George.


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